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859 0708fedlegalempguide

  1. 1. 2007-2008 Federal Legal Employment Opportunities Guide In cooperation with The American Bar Association’s Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division
  2. 2. Table of Contents Foreword ..........................................................................................................................................2 Introduction......................................................................................................................................3 Article: “The Rewards of Government Employment” by Katherine Mikkelson............................4 Tips for Landing a Federal Government Job ...................................................................................9 Table: Where the Government Jobs Are........................................................................................11 Spotlight on Six Attorneys in the Federal Government.................................................................12 Attorney Spotlight: Joseph Downey, Admin. Office of the U.S. Courts Attorney Spotlight: Gwendolyn Hodge, Assistant U.S. Attorney Attorney Spotlight: Joseph Manalili, Federal Aviation Administration Attorney Spotlight: Rhonda L. Daniels, HUD Attorney Spotlight: Cynthia Valenzuela, Assistant U.S. Attorney Article: “Federal Agencies Catch Makeover Madness” by Sarah Hilton.....................................17 How to Apply for a Federal Government Job................................................................................21 Definitions and Terms in the Federal Application Process ..........................................................23 Additional Agency-Specific Application Forms ...........................................................................27 Alternative Points of Entry ............................................................................................................28 Special Hiring Initiatives in the Federal Government ...................................................................31 Federal Government Salary Information .......................................................................................34 Federal Government Benefits Information ....................................................................................36 Article: “Loan Repayment Update: Extra Assistance for Public Lawyers” by Sarah Hilton........38 Federal Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) ...............................................................41 Additional Resources for Obtaining Federal Legal Employment..................................................43 Appendix: Federal Departments and Agencies.............................................................................44 1
  3. 3. Foreword The 2007-2008 NALP Federal Legal Employment Opportunities Guide is the product of a collaborative effort among NALP, the American Bar Association’s Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division (a division of the ABA that advocates for and enhances the professional growth of public lawyers), and The Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing the federal public service through public-private partnerships and educational efforts. These organizations contributed a wealth of information that offers job seekers an in-depth look at the government’s myriad functions and roles, as well as a glossary of terms unique to the federal application process, and tips on landing a government job. NALP extends its sincere thanks to the ABA and The Partnership for their contributions to this resource. Please note that the materials contained herein represent the opinions of the authors and editors and should not be construed to be those of the ABA or its Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division unless adopted pursuant to the bylaws of the Association. NALP also wishes to recognize specific individuals who contributed invaluable assistance in the production of the 2007-2008 Guide. Sarah Hilton of the ABA and Brooke Bohnet of The Partnership provided tremendous input and information. In addition, NALP’s summer Project Assistants contributed to the creation of the new Guide. They are: Uchechi Anyanwu, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law; Christina Hardjasa, University of Cincinnati College of Law (transferring to Georgetown University Law Center); and Holly Swenson Rasmussen, Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark School of Law. Finally, NALP’s 2007 summer Publications Coordinator, J. Alex Chasick, made valuable contributions to editing the guide. For information on the Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division of the ABA, please see To learn more about The Partnership for Public Service and opportunities with the federal government, visit The Partnership’s website at and job-seeker website at NALP’s PSLawNet website also includes job descriptions for federal government jobs across the country: We hope that you find the guide to be a useful resource, and we wish you the best of luck in pursuing a career with the federal government. - Steve Grumm NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives - Sarah Mansfield 2006-07 PSLawNet Fellow 2
  4. 4. Introduction In organizing the 2007-2008 NALP Federal Legal Employment Opportunities Guide, our goal has been to help clarify the federal hiring process for law students and attorneys pursuing careers in the public sector. At first glance, seeking and applying for federal jobs can seem incredibly overwhelming. It can be difficult to understand just where to begin. As you read through the Guide, you will find specific information about which federal agencies are expected to hire the most lawyers in the near future, application requirements, salary and benefit information, fellowship and honors programs, special federal hiring initiatives, as well as summaries of the responsibilities of selected federal agencies. Our hope is that this Guide, although not exhaustive, will serve as a helpful resource for navigating the federal hiring process. We have also provided recently published articles that give a more detailed overview of the federal government’s hiring processes as well as the federal loan repayment assistance programs. Before digging into the Guide, take the time to read “The Rewards of Government Employment” by Katherine Mikkelson, Associate Director of the ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division. Through interviews with several government lawyers, Ms. Mikkelson provides insight into the challenges and rewards of federal legal practice. The next section of the Guide offers some helpful tips to attorneys and law students as they apply for government jobs. Please note that there are additional resources listed that provide a wealth of information about federal government employment, including the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) website and The U.S. Government Manual. The nuts and bolts of application procedures, definitions and terms used in the application process (including links to many federal application forms), and salary and benefit information can be found in subsequent sections of the Guide. There is also specific information for law students and new graduates seeking federal employment opportunities. The Appendix provides brief descriptions of selected federal agencies and offices in the legislative and executive branches as well as information on independent government agencies. Again, the information in the Appendix is not exhaustive, but rather a starting point for further exploration of legal career opportunities within the federal government. 3
  5. 5. The Rewards of Government Employment Although salaries are generally lower than in the private sector, lawyers with public agencies say they reap many benefits in their work. By Katherine Mikkelson Katherine Mikkelson is associate director of the ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division. Previously, she was a lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. When Joan Sullivan graduated from law school, paying down her law school loans was a priority, so she accepted a high-paying job right out of law school with a Washington, D.C., communications law firm. Within a few months of being there, Sullivan realized that the firm wasn’t a good fit for her. “The work wasn’t interesting or challenging,” she recalls. “Also, it was difficult to get litigation work,” which Sullivan was eager to try. An eye-opening moment for Sullivan came when a more senior lawyer told her she wouldn’t get to second-chair a deposition until she was at the firm for three or four years. “I didn’t want to wait that long for the experience,” she says. Sullivan applied for and got a position with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), where she interned during law school. It paid $20,000 less than her job with the firm. It’s true that government salaries generally are lower than what you’ll find in the private sector, but government agencies tend to give their lawyers something many private firms, especially the larger ones, cannot: lots of experience, immediately. Anne Dewey-Balzhiser, who recently started her own consulting firm after a 28-year career with five different federal agencies, recalls that she was with the Farm Credit Administration only four months when she was called to testify in Congress as a staffer about proposed legislation overhauling the Farm Credit Act. “The federal government can’t afford a long training period, so they throw you in and see how you do,” says Dewey-Balzhiser, a council member of the ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division. “There’s a significant opportunity to develop skills and substantive knowledge quickly.” Likewise, within two months at the NLRB, Sullivan was the lead attorney on several cases and was conducting depositions with a limited amount of supervision. Within her first year there, she was the lead attorney in two trials. “You won’t get shunted off to do document review in the government,” Sullivan says. But she also cautions that this particular attribute might not be for everyone: “If you don’t like being pushed off with lots of responsibility from the start, [government work] might not be a 4
  6. 6. good fit for you.” What drives lawyers who work for government agencies, many of whom leave private practice to do so? Aside from their desire to take lead responsibility on cases and other matters early in their careers, government lawyers also enjoy the public policy aspects of their work. And while salaries may not be as high as in private practice, generous benefits (including loan repayment programs) and work-life accommodations can help make up the difference. The federal government often is a model for discussing government legal work in general, but many opportunities exist in state and local government law as well. And think outside the prosecution box, as literally hundreds of agencies offer every type of practice area in every imaginable area of the law. Salary Most professional jobs in the federal government fall under the General Schedule (GS) pay scale. Jobs range from GS-1 to GS-15 (with 10 steps between each grade) and are ranked based on responsibility and difficulty of the work. Most entry-level lawyers start at either a GS- 11 or GS-12, which ranges from $46,974 to $73,194 for 2007. In addition, certain areas of the country have locality pay adjustments to compensate for the higher cost of living in those areas. For example, in Los Angeles, federal employees earn 24.03 percent over the base pay, while in Washington, DC, federal employees earn 18.59 percent over the base pay. Recognizing that some agencies have recruitment and retention problems, some agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, have separate pay scales for their employees. Also, assistant U.S. attorneys are not paid under the GS rate. They have an administratively determined pay plan established by the attorney general. Entry-level salaries for state and local government vary depending on the jurisdiction, geographical area, and level of government. For example, in Prince William County, Va., assistant county attorneys begin at $52,000. Assistant attorneys general in Illinois begin at $43,000. In Coral Springs, Fla., assistant city attorneys start at $62,000. By comparison, private practice salaries generally are higher—though often not as much as you might think. According to the National Association for Law Placement’s 2005 Associate Salary Survey, the average salary of a first-year associate in private practice was about $100,000, but that figure accounts for firms of all sizes. First-year associates working for firms of two to 25 lawyers made an average starting salary of $73,722, while those at firms of more than 500 lawyers made an average of $117,952. Benefits Salary is one thing, but benefits also are important to take into account. Benefits with the federal government and many state and local agencies are considered generous. They include ample vacation time and sick leave, solid health and retirement benefits, and loan repayment programs. Federal employees earn vacation time based on the amount of time in federal service. 5
  7. 7. Employees employed between one and three years get 13 days of annual leave each year, while those employed between three and fifteen years get 20 days. Federal employees with more than 15 years of service get 26 days a year. Up to 30 days of annual leave can be rolled over for future use. Each year, employees get 10 paid holidays and can earn up to 13 days of sick leave, which can be accumulated indefinitely. Under regulations that became effective at the beginning of 2005, federal employees can be granted compensatory time off (comp time) for time spent traveling away from the employee’s official duty station in certain situations. In addition, federal employees can receive life insurance and health coverage from a variety of plans, and the government pays a significant part of the premiums. Government lawyers also are eligible for the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), which includes Social Security as well as a separate retirement savings and investment plan. Finally, there’s the federal government’s loan repayment program. Under 5 U.S.C. §5379, agencies may establish a program under which they may repay certain types of federally made, insured, or guaranteed student loans. The employee must remain in federal service for three years. In 2005, 30 agencies provided $28 million in loan repayment benefits to 4,409 employees. Compared to FY 2004, this represents a 50 percent increase in the number of employees receiving benefits and a 70 percent financial investment increase. Recent amendments to the law provide that a federal agency may repay up to $10,000 (up from $6,000) for any one employee in a calendar year and an aggregate limit of $60,000 (up from $40,000). Aside from these benefits, what else attracts lawyers to government work? Exceptional Experience Matthew Bye, an attorney-adviser for a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, found that he enjoyed the speaking engagements that were part of his job when he was with the Office of General Counsel, Policy Studies. Bye spoke at conferences and symposiums about the commission’s policies, reports, and recommendations and found that his monthly trips were a refreshing change of pace. “I got to talk with people in firms and industries who are on the cutting edge of issues,” says Bye, the young lawyers’ representative for the ABA Section of Antitrust Law. “It was great to talk to people in the field and not just be isolated in D.C.” Government work also is noteworthy because lawyers can shape policy, something that rarely occurs in private practice. Joseph Manalili, a lawyer in the Airports and Environmental Law Division of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), conducts environmental reviews before major airport construction projects begin. “The work I’m doing is important from a policy perspective because it affects citizens,” says Manalili, chair of the law student outreach committee of the ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division. Quality of Life An oft-cited benefit of being a government employee is the opportunity to achieve a reasonable work-life balance. Anne Dewey-Balzhiser had five periods of part-time employment throughout her career at various agencies. Childcare was the impetus for all her part-time stints. 6
  8. 8. Dewey-Balzhiser says her employers were surprisingly accommodating. She even found that the Farm Credit Administration was willing to create a part-time position for her when she wanted to scale back her hours after her third child was born. Government lawyers are not beholden to the billable hour, so their time is much more likely to be their own. And while many jobs require long hours, especially for litigators, most government lawyers can manage their schedules more readily than their firm colleagues. Just peruse the message boards at to learn how little vacation time is taken by associates, particularly those in large firms. Manalili notes that he took only one vacation day in one year when he was with a firm. “My quality of life was not as good,” he says. “I worked longer hours and couldn’t plan for vacations or time off.” In his current position, Manalili appreciates the peace of mind that comes with going on vacation and not worrying about work. The federal government also can be accommodating in terms of geographical and agency movement. Part of this flexibility is due to most agencies requiring a J.D. and being a member of the bar in good standing in any jurisdiction. Dewey-Balzhiser was with the Department of Treasury’s Comptroller of the Currency, located in Washington, D.C., when her husband, a lawyer in private practice, was offered a job in Dallas. She was able to negotiate a transfer to the department’s Dallas office, where she worked for more than two years before the couple returned to the Washington area. Similarly, Manalili has found it easy to move from agency to agency. Besides his current position with the FAA, he’s also worked for the Commission on Civil Rights, the Patent and Trademark Office, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, in geographic locations from Washington, D.C., to California. “I’ve been able to move around from different agencies because of the easily transferable skills,” he says. Despite the wildly divergent types of law he’s practiced, from discrimination law to patent and trademark examination to environmental law, he notes that “the same skills keep coming up.” Finding Positions Government practice comes in all shapes and sizes. Salaries range considerably and application procedures differ from agency to agency and jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so do research beforehand to understand the agencies that are out there, what you are applying for, and how to apply. Word of mouth can be a great way to find government positions, so keep your professional networks strong. Contact alumni of your college and law school who work for agencies you find interesting. Ask if they would be willing to sit down for an informational interview with you or recommend others who could. To further expand your network of practicing lawyers, join professional associations and get involved in committees that sound interesting to you. You’ll be surprised how receptive many of these groups are to have an eager law student willing to volunteer time. Matthew Bye found his job through an ABA connection. While in law school at the Australian National University, he e-mailed the chair of the computer industry and Internet committee of the ABA Section of Antitrust Law for information about the application of antitrust law to business-to-business e-commerce for his thesis. About the same time, the Federal Trade 7
  9. 9. Commission (FTC) began studying the issue, holding hearings, and inviting public comment. Bye submitted his paper as a comment, and the commission cited portions of it in its report. After Bye graduated, he planned a trip to the United States, and his ABA contact put him in touch with several staffers in the policy studies office. Bye met with the staffers in person during a visit to Washington, D.C., and was offered a job soon thereafter. Dewey-Balzhiser was creative in landing her first job with the FTC. During the summer after her second year of law school, she went through her school’s alumni directory and wrote a letter to about 20 alumni who worked for various federal agencies. Almost all of them wrote or called her back. Several set up interviews for her in their agencies, including one with the FTC. The commission that year hired only a handful of lawyers out of hundreds of applicants, but Dewey-Balzhiser is sure her alumni contacts helped her stand out. Some people see government practice as a steppingstone to more lucrative positions in private practice. But even if you plan on staying with the government a short time, don’t announce this during the interview process; it can be considered an insult to lawyers who have devoted their careers to government service. And you never know, you might just wake up some day after years of service surprised to find that you are nearing retirement age. Dewey-Balzhiser never expected she would retire from federal service. “I thought I would be there for two or three years,” she says. She cites the difficulties of raising children if both she and her husband had been in private practice. “So by default I stayed in, and then I moved up,” she says. “It was a very satisfying career.” Originally Published: Volume 34: No. 2, October 2005, The American Bar Association, Student Lawyer magazine, “The Rewards of Government Employment,” by Katherine Mikkelson. Reproduced by permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. 8
  10. 10. Tips for Landing a Federal Government Job 1) Take Advantage of an Unprecedented Opportunity. 550,000 federal employees are expected to leave the government in the next five years, the majority through retirement. That’s one-third of the full-time permanent federal workforce – this spells opportunity for young professionals to move up quickly in leadership roles. The government will be aggressively recruiting talented and committed candidates to replace these public servants. 2) Know Where to Look. Many job seekers think of the federal government as a single employer, but when it comes to hiring, each agency has its own process. Most federal job opportunities are posted on USAJobs (, a website run by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Law students seeking federal internship or clerkship opportunities should visit; a comprehensive list of federal agencies with employment opportunities for students is located at In addition, job seekers can gather information about federal agencies within each branch of government at Click on “A-Z Agency Index” on the right side of the webpage for links to individual agency websites. 3) Target Your Search. Although there are many career opportunities in the legislative and judicial branches, the executive branch is by far the largest employer. Within the executive branch, there are over 70 individual departments and agencies, including numerous independent agencies such as the SEC, EPA, and USAID. These agencies range in size from fewer than 100 employees to over 300,000. The U.S. Government Manual ( can help you narrow your job search. The manual provides a brief description of every agency and its organization, mission, and locations. Another helpful tool is the USAJobs Resume Builder ( pm%2Egov%2Fresume%2Easp), which allows you to create and upload an uniform resume that provides all the information required by government agencies. 4) Be Prepared. Federal employment applications may seem daunting, but the more organized you are in advance, the easier they will be. Update your resume, locate your transcript, and verify contact information for your references. Incomplete applications may not be considered; therefore, read the application carefully and provide all requested information. Many applications require a statement about Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) relevant to the position. The Department of Labor provides detailed information about completing this portion of your application at OPM offers tips on KSAs at 5) Consider a Short-Term Service Opportunity. Within the federal government, there are a number of ways to take advantage of short-term career opportunities. For 9
  11. 11. commitments of limited time duration, consider Americorps ( or the Peace Corps ( Americorps also funds a program for lawyers, called the Pro Bono Legal Corps, which is administered through Equal Justice Works ( In addition, some federal legal jobs start on a time-limited basis – typically one or two years – but offer the possibility of transitioning into a career position at the end of that time. Examples of such programs include the Attorney Honors Program and the Federal Career Intern Program ( Note that the Federal Career Intern Program requires students to contact specific agencies directly, as OPM is not the main source for career intern opportunities. Individuals in the Federal Career Intern Program are usually appointed to a two year internship. Upon successful completion of the internship, the interns may be eligible for a permanent position within the agency. 6) Be Patient. Applying for and obtaining a government job can take a long time. The federal hiring process does not move as quickly as hiring in the private sector, so don’t be alarmed if you submit an application and don’t get an immediate response. 7) Take Advantage of an Unprecedented Opportunity. 550,000 federal employees are expected to leave the government in the next five years, the majority through retirement. That’s one-third of the full-time permanent federal workforce – this spells opportunity for young professionals to move up quickly in leadership roles. The government will be aggressively recruiting talented and committed candidates to replace these public servants. 10
  12. 12. Where the Government Jobs Are The chart below represents federal departments and agencies with the most full-time, permanent general schedule legal positions as of March 2007. (“Legal positions” includes not only attorney positions, but also those for administrative law judges (ALJ’s), various types of administrative and managerial positions, as well as paralegals). The data was taken from Fedscope (online database at, courtesy of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). For complete information on projected hiring for the legal field, see “Where the Jobs Are” at Agencies with the Most Legal Jobs: Legal Agency New Legal Hires through 2009 Positions Social Security Administration 22,671 Dependent on appropriations Department of Treasury 18,502 Attorneys 427 Attorneys 1,624 Department of Justice 15,141 Legal Assistance 645 Paralegals 411 Department of Veterans Affairs 10,211 Claims Examination 850+ Department of Defense 5,274 Unknown Attorneys 180 Department of Transportation 2,739 Contact Representative 3,725 Department of Homeland Security 2,691 Attorneys 505 Attorneys 60 Department of Labor 2,158 Claims Examination 387 Department of Commerce 1,585 Attorneys 172 Securities and Exchange Commission 1,526 Attorneys 258 Department of Interior 1,243 Unknown Department of State 1,256 Unknown Small Business Administration 1,220 Unknown Environmental Protection Agency 1,127 Attorneys 60 Equal Employment Commission 598 Attorneys 39 Federal Communications Commission 533 Attorneys 75 Department of Housing and Urban Attorneys 21 525 Development Paralegals 18 Department of Education 336 Attorneys 67 TOTAL 93,893 9,691 FULL-TIME AND PERMANENT POSITIONS, FEDSCOPE, AS OF MAR. 2007 AND PARTNERSHIP FOR PUBLIC SERVICE, “WHERE THE JOBS ARE REPORT 2007” 11
  13. 13. Spotlight on Six Attorneys in the Federal Government ___________________________________________________________________________________ We all know the best way to really investigate a potential legal employer is to speak with the attorneys currently working there. Six attorneys with fulfilling government careers have offered candid thoughts about their jobs, and given advice for lawyers and law students who aspire to work in similar positions. The views expressed herein are each attorney’s own personal views and should not be attributed to any of their affiliated agencies and employers. Public Service as a Career: Transitioning to the Federal Government Joseph Downey Chief of Program Assessments and Operations Branch, Office of Defender Services, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts Joe Downey has been the Chief of the Program Assessments and Operations Branch for the Office of Defender Services in the Administrative Office of the U. S. Courts for almost five years. Besides a stint in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, this is Joe’s first federal government job, although the rest of his career was spent in state government and non-profit legal aid programs. He found the position from the listings in and was attracted to it because of his interest in working to support federal defender organizations and because of the generous federal benefits. Some of his responsibilities include making sure each organization obeys all federal rules and trying to prioritize important actions to take within current budget restraints. He likes that he works with and for other federal defenders and with people who are extraordinarily competent and dedicated. Joe advises those contemplating a career in the federal government to do their best in school and to pay attention to the exact requirements of job announcements. 12
  14. 14. Cattle, Veterans’ Healthcare and Bankruptcy: All in a Day’s Work Gwendolyn Hodge Assistant United States Attorney Eastern District of Arkansas Gwendolyn Hodge is an Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Arkansas. She has held this position for 12 years. She first applied for a job with the federal government in January 1995 at the suggestion of a mentor. Before working for the federal government, Gwendolyn worked as a state court law clerk, then in the private sector for one and a half years. Gwendolyn took a job with the U.S. Attorney’s Office because she wanted to get trial experience early in her career and knew that this would be difficult working in the private sector, especially for a large firm. Gwendolyn enjoys standing in front of a jury and stating that she represents the United States. She finds the variety of clients and cases that comes with her job to be the most interesting challenge she faces. In one day she can represent an agency and talk about cattle, farm equipment and rice production; represent the Veteran’s Administration and talk about various medical procedures; defend agencies in Title VII employment discrimination cases; and deal with persons in bankruptcy with tax issues. Gwendolyn sees many advantages to working in the public sector. She has a “ready made” client base, and because she works with the same agencies on a regular basis, she develops a professional relationship with staff attorneys, agents and other agency employees. This often facilitates the representation of that person or agency because those involved are not strangers, and generally speaking, each knows what to expect, and what is expected, of the other. Gwendolyn also enjoys her interaction with various agencies, such as the FAA, the EPA, and the Army Corps of Engineers. In representing the agency or its employees, she learns about the agency and its role, not to mention the applicable law. Another great advantage to working in the public sector is the benefits package, which includes vacation time, sick leave, a choice of health plans, and retirement options. She also enjoys freedom from billable hours and from marketing her services to clients. This allows her to focus on her cases, not marketing efforts. Gwendolyn finds few disadvantages to working in the public sector. She works each day knowing that she will never have that “big” case that might make a private sector attorney a millionaire. As a public sector attorney, she also realizes that she cannot “fire” a client. However, because of this she has developed exceptional communication skills. Gwendolyn believes that the best kept secrets of working for the federal government are the retirement options. If she could offer advice to students or attorneys contemplating a career with the federal government, she would tell them to consider internships or law clerk positions, and to be creative in thinking about where they might fit in within all of the many government entities that employ attorneys. 13
  15. 15. Protecting Local Communities, Residents and the Environment During Regular Business Hours Joseph Manalili Attorney-Advisor Airports and Environmental Law Division, Federal Aviation Administration Joseph Manalili has worked as an Attorney-Advisor in the Airports & Environmental Law Division of the Federal Aviation Administration for just over three years, but has been employed with the federal government for a number of years. He began work with the government to improve his quality of life. He wanted to work regular hours so that he could get involved in the community and go on regular vacations. He found out about his first government job with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in November of 1998 from a friend who used to work there. This job suited him as he had worked on civil rights issues in college and law school. He found his other federal jobs through the OPM website, What Joseph likes best about his current position is that his public service helps people. He conducts environmental reviews to make sure the federal government complies with all environmental laws before beginning any major airport projects. This protects the local com- munity, its residents, and the environment. He faces an interesting challenge of balancing the sometimes-competing interests of the federal government and the public at large. Joseph began his career in the private sector, but despite the higher salary he disliked the long days, billable hours, and dealing with clients. His experience in the private sector has made him more appreciative of the advantages of the public sector including the regular schedule, the focus on work rather than the extraneous issues such as billing and client development, and working with people who care about public service and who enjoy coming to work. He also thinks working for the federal government is less stressful than the private sector. To law students or attorneys contemplating a career with the federal government, Joseph recommends pursuing an internship with a government agency as most agencies have internship programs in several different departments, not just the legal department. Some agencies even have honors programs that hire graduates right out of law school. Most agencies, though, require attorneys to have some legal experience, so those contemplating a career change possibly have an advantage. In all cases, it helps to talk to an attorney currently in the agency to learn about the hiring process and how to best tailor your application. 14
  16. 16. Impacting the Private Sector from the Public Sector Rhonda L. Daniels Senior Attorney Office of General Counsel, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Rhonda L. Daniels has been a senior attorney for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for five years. She took the position, which she found on, because she wanted to work in the public sector after 10 years in trade associations. She likes the public sector because of the responsibility for shaping public policy and providing guidance to the private sector. For instance, Rhonda is involved in developing regulations that will ultimately affect everyone who buys a home in this country. She faces the interesting challenge of maintaining focus on a long-term goal and remaining open to rule changes beyond her control that may occur during development of regulations. She cites the ability to telecommute and the ability to work part-time if circumstances dictate as some of the best kept secrets of working for the federal government. Rhonda advises that while it is difficult to move to the federal government mid-career, it is not impossible. Those interested should consistently monitor federal government jobs websites and do what they can to distinguish themselves from other applicants, such as by assuming leadership roles in professional associations and continuing with educational advancements in relevant practice areas. 15
  17. 17. Honored to Serve the Public and Give Back to her Community Cynthia Valenzuela Assistant United States Attorney Central District of California Cynthia Valenzuela has been an Assistant United States Attorney for seven years. Her father, a firefighter, and mother, a public schoolteacher, influenced her career choice. They taught her that contributing to the community through public service is both an obligation and an honor. Cynthia has a history of government jobs including working at the Arizona Supreme Court and at the California Legislative Counsel Bureau. Upon graduation from law school, she found an ideal government job, and has since elected to forego private practice. Her former ethics professor at UCLA Law School, Cruz Reynoso, served as the Vice-Chairperson on the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Because of their positive working relationship and Cynthia’s fine classroom performance, he invited her to serve as his Special Assistant. Cynthia believes that being a federal prosecutor is the ultimate experience in legal practice. The U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecutes a variety of interesting cases including: public corruption and government fraud, terrorism and organized crime, cyber crimes, narcotics, major frauds, environmental and civil rights violations. As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, she especially enjoys handling cases from the very start through to their conclusion: beginning the process with the initial investigation which includes strategizing with highly talented federal agents, to conducting jury trials, and culminating in writing and arguing appeals. Because federal prosecutors wield enormous power, Cynthia finds that exercising discretion in charging and disposition decisions is one of the most interesting challenges of her job. Cynthia finds that working for the federal government affords a high quality of life. Her job allows her to balance a challenging, satisfying and meaningful work life with a well-rounded social life. She also enjoys the fact that she is surrounded by brilliant people who are hard-working and dedicated to the pursuit of justice. Cynthia advises students contemplating a career in the federal government to, first and foremost, concentrate on achieving an excellent academic record. However, participation in extra- curricular activities like law review and moot court can be very important too. Taking clinical courses and volunteering with public interest organizations or government agencies are also great opportunities for hands-on experience. She recommends that students seek volunteer positions after graduation to “get a foot in the door.” Similarly, she suggests preparing to live on a modest salary for the first few years out of law school since government salaries are generally significantly lower than the private sector. Cynthia advises law students to be conservative in the amount of student loans they obtain and/or consider an initial position in private practice. 16
  18. 18. Federal Agencies Catch Makeover Madness Federal agencies overhaul their hiring procedures. By Sarah Hilton Sarah Hilton is the ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division’s project coordinator. It seems every home, car and wardrobe in America is getting a makeover these days. Even the federal government’s hiring process is getting an overhaul. With more than half of all federal employees becoming eligible for retirement within the next five years, the federal government is facing a hiring crunch. In response to this hiring crisis, a team of recruitment experts, led by the Partnership for Public Service, launched an “Extreme Hiring Makeover” (EHM) designed to improve the way the federal government recruits and hires talented workers. Starting with three pilot agencies, the team helped diagnose problems with each agency’s recruitment and hiring processes, and helped determine and implement solutions over a 10-month period. The EHM team selected these agencies because they were facing critical, short-term hiring challenges, were willing to confront their inefficiencies, and were ready for change. The three agencies to receive hiring makeovers were the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Department of Education (ED), and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The EHM team included the Partnership for Public Service (PPS), Monster Government Solutions, ePredix, CPS Human Resource Services, AIRS, Brainbench, the Human Capital Institute and Korn/Ferry International. According to their expertise, each team member organization donated products, services, and tools to assist the pilot agencies with their specific needs. PPS acted as project manager and facilitated project communications; it oversaw the project plan and recruited the pilot agencies. The federal hiring process itself is one of the greatest impediments to attracting new hires according to the EHM team. Federal job application instructions can be 35 pages long. Applicants can wait six months to a year for a job offer with little or no feedback during the process. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) CMS is the largest health care insurer of Americans. The agency administers health care service to one in four Americans and handles one billion claims per year. CMS manages Medicare, Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). To meet the requirements of the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA), with its 2004 drug discount card and 2006 prescription drug benefit 17
  19. 19. plan, the agency needed to increase its workforce by 10 percent and double its normal annual hiring within two years. CMS managers were most concerned with ensuring that the agency would have top talent to meet future requirements. CMS received large numbers of applications for many positions, but had an automated staffing system that few within the agency understood. Effective applicant screening and assessment was a major challenge. The Extreme Hiring Makeover team reviewed CMS’s hiring process from “end to end” and analyzed a demonstration hiring process for a health insurance specialist, a position for which managers had an immediate hiring need. The EHM team began with a strategic conversation with the hiring manager to clearly identify the needs of the position. The information gathered during this discussion was used to help the team market the position using an eye-catching, plain-English vacancy announcement; to target qualified candidates via web-based résumé databases; and to enhance screening and assessment tools. CMS considered the team’s hiring analysis and employed the makeover suggestions. The results of the CMS extreme hiring makeover were impressive. By using enhanced marketing and by targeting announcements, the agency received applications from a greater number of qualified applicants: 227 qualified applicants, up from the average 53. Automated pre-screening and web-based skills assessments worked to select the best applicants more efficiently. Fifteen percent of applicants were screened out in pre-screening, up from six percent. One hundred and sixty-nine applicants took the online skills assessment. Category ranking helped managers judge 24 applicants to be “well qualified.” After interviews, the hiring manager was able to hire seven new employees – the first within 22 business days of the vacancy announcement closing date. The EHM team helped CMS reduce the number of steps in its hiring process by 20 percent. Since its hiring makeover, CMS has taken additional steps to change its screening and assessment process and has also shifted its view of hiring from an administrative function, to a strategic function, with managers and human resources (HR) professionals working as partners. Department of Education (ED) ED is responsible for ensuring equal access to education and administering student loans and grants. The department also works with communities, schools and state and local governments to ensure educational excellence. With much of its workforce retiring, ED needed to hire hundreds of employees – in various occupations and at various levels – in one year’s time. ED sought to hire talented individuals with an understanding of its business and with skills that could be developed over time. Like much of the federal government, EHM determined that ED’s established hiring process took too long, was overly complex, and often failed to deliver qualified candidates. Hiring managers needed a new approach to meet their hiring goals. The EHM team decided to focus on the Federal Student Aid (FSA) program office because it is the department’s largest and because it is the government’s first Performance-Based Organization (PBO). Performance Based Organizations (PBO) were designed to help the government operate more efficiently. These government programs, offices or units establish clear measures of performance and hold the head of the organization accountable for achieving results. A PBO has 18
  20. 20. the authority to deviate from government-wide rules, thereby allowing for more flexibility, innovation and efficiency. PBOs are led by a chief operating officer, hired under a performance- based contract, who reports directly to the agency’s Secretary. The EHM team conducted focus groups with hiring managers, senior leaders, new hires and HR. The discussions revealed that the hiring process consisted of 114 discrete steps, and over 45 hand-offs between managers, HR and others. They also revealed that job postings were generic and loaded with jargon, and assessment questions were ineffective in screening out unqualified applicants. When managers made no selection among applicants, vacancy announcements were simply re-posted, adding more time to the hiring process. FSA’s Chief Operating Officer and the team streamlined the process by eliminating redundant and ineffective steps. The dozens of steps it took to get vacancy and candidate assessment information from managers to HR were replaced by one strategic conversation at the start of the hiring process. Back-and-forth emails were replaced by meetings, and senior managers were asked to prepare and follow annual staffing plans. To introduce the new process and collect feedback, ED held a three-day boot camp for HR and hiring managers. Hiring managers received EHM interview guides, and HR personnel received vacancy announcement templates and tips on marketing ED jobs. HR worked with the EHM team to develop better screening questions for better skills assessments, and created a department-wide hiring tracking system. With the help of the Extreme Hiring Makeover team, ED reduced its hiring process steps from 114 to 53. ED has reduced the time it takes to fill a vacancy while attracting a greater number of qualified applicants. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Established in 2000, NNSA maintains the safety and security of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpiles. The agency carries out the national security responsibilities of the Department of Energy by designing, producing and maintaining safe and reliable nuclear weapons for the military; providing nuclear propulsion for the navy; and promoting international nuclear safety and nonproliferation. To carry out these responsibilities, NNSA needs highly skilled personnel to fill entry-level and mid-level positions in the fields of nuclear engineering, physics, radiological, safety and health engineering, and business management. NNSA’s principal hiring challenge was to attract and hire qualified applicants to work in somewhat unusual locations, such as rural areas of Texas, South Carolina and New Mexico. Agency leaders determined that the traditional hiring process was hampering NNSA’s ability to attract highly talented applicants and compete effectively with private sector employers. With 33 percent of its workforce eligible for retirement in 2006, NNSA leaders knew they needed to address the limitations of their hiring process. The EHM team’s first finding was that NNSA was not effectively marketing its unique employment opportunities. Vacancy announcements were packed with technical terms that 19
  21. 21. obscured the most attractive aspects of the job. The team helped NNSA create a new look and language for vacancy announcements that conveyed the importance and excitement of the position. The team also helped NNSA implement a web-based targeted recruiting strategy. Inspired by the EHM team’s efforts, NNSA leaders developed their own marketing tools. They designed an advertisement featuring the “new face of NNSA” and launched an emerging leaders program, on-campus recruitment efforts, and an intern training program. They also worked to improve benefits and other perks such as student loan repayment, signing bonuses, and relocation assistance. The makeover also encouraged NNSA hiring managers and human resources staff to change their hiring relationship; they started working as partners from the outset. The first candidate search NNSA conducted using its overhauled hiring process yielded eight times as many applicants as the traditional process. Encouraged by the results, NNSA committed itself to improvement and incorporated the EHM team’s recommendations into its standard hiring process. EHM as a Model If the Extreme Hiring Makeover is any indication, traditional federal hiring processes can be changed as long as agency managers and HR personnel are committed to the project. By taking a close look at an agency’s hiring process, the EHM team – with the support and assistance of agency leaders – found ways to streamline the process and attract, assess and hire qualified candidates more quickly. With more than half of federal workers poised for retirement, this approach could go a long way toward helping federal agencies meet their future hiring needs. In April 2006, Partnership for Public Service, CPS Human Resource Services and Brainbench presented a half-day workshop on redesigning the hiring process and candidate assessments. Eighty federal employees attended and learned lessons they could take back to their agencies. PPS has found that the EHM lessons are also useful to HR professionals at the state and local level and has made presentations on applying the Extreme Hiring Makeover lessons to a number of state governments. In summer 2006, PPS and the Office of Personnel Management released a toolkit for HR professionals and presented another hiring workshop. Visit for more information. For more information on the Extreme Hiring Makeover project and partners, visit You may also want to visit, the Council for Excellence in Government’s website devoted to communicating the importance of working in government to young people. Originally Published: Volume 15, No. 4, Summer 2006, The American Bar Association’s Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division Pass It On Newsletter, “Federal Agencies Catch Makeover Madness,” by Sarah Hilton. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. 20
  22. 22. How to Apply for a Federal Government Job When applying for most jobs with the federal government, you may submit an existing resume which includes the information below, create a resume online at under ‘Create a Resume,’ or complete the Optional Application for Federal Employment OF 612 available at Applicants should check individual job announcements for resume requirements and specific instructions regarding application procedures. Federal Government Employment – Required Information: Incomplete applications may not be considered. Job Information Announcement number and position title and grade(s) for which you are applying Personal Information Full name, mailing address, day and evening phone numbers Social Security Number Country of citizenship (must be U.S. citizen to be eligible) Veterans Preference, if applicable (failure to submit timely proof may adversely affect your preference). Attach latest report of Separation from Active Duty (DD 214) to establish honorable discharge from military service. Attach SF15 – – and required proof (i.e., DVA letter dated in last year) if you are claiming a 10-point veterans preference. Special appointment eligibility (e.g., 30% compensable disability, handicap, Peace Corps, etc.). Attach supporting documentation. If you are or were a federal government employee, please attach your latest SF50 (Notice of Personnel Action), indicate highest federal civilian grade held and dates, and attach a copy of your latest performance appraisal. Education Last High School attended: name, city, state, zip code, and year diploma or GED received Colleges and Universities: name, city, state, major(s), type of degree, and year received (or total semester/quarter hours earned). Do not attach transcript unless specifically requested. Other educational programs, if relevant. Show dates and total hours of program. Job-Related Work Experience – Paid and Unpaid Job title (include series and grade if federal job) Name of employer, supervisor’s name, and supervisor’s telephone number (please indicate if your current supervisor should not be contacted) Starting and ending dates (month and year) Hours worked per week Annual salary 21
  23. 23. Duties and accomplishments Other Job-Related Qualifications Relevant skills (e.g., foreign languages, computer software/hardware) Relevant training courses Relevant current certificates and licenses Relevant honors, awards, special accomplishment, etc. (e.g., memberships in professional and honor societies, publications, leadership activities, public speaking, performance awards). Give dates, but do not send documents. Narrative Statement describing possession of advertised evaluation criteria (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities or KSAs). See job announcement for topics to cover in narrative statement. 22
  24. 24. Definitions and Terms in the Federal Application Process Exploring employment opportunities and applying for jobs in the federal government requires a basic familiarity with the unique definitions, terms, and forms that are important to the process. Career-Conditional Employee – A career-conditional employee must complete three years service before becoming a full career or “status” employee. This three-year period is more or less probationary. After those three years, if you pass, you become an official “career” employee – which means you have a better shot of staying on board if there’s downsizing. This status is supposed to confer upon the employee the stamp of approval for advancement and growth and gives you an edge when applying for other federal jobs down the road. Competitive Service – Most civil service jobs fall under this category. Competitive jobs are those that must be filled through a fair, open and merit-based process. Declaration for Federal Employment - Form OF 306 – Used to determine your acceptability for federal and federal contract employment. The hiring agency may ask you to complete OF 306 at any time during the hiring process: Delegated Examining Authority – An authority OPM grants agencies to fill competitive civil service jobs with applicants from outside the federal workforce, federal employees who do not have competitive service status, or federal employees with competitive service status. Dual Employment – Federal employees, civilian and military, are generally prohibited from receiving pay from more than one federal government source. The laws on dual employment apply to agencies in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches; corporations owned or controlled by the government; and non-appropriated fund organizations under the jurisdiction of the armed forces. Excepted Service Agencies – Some agencies are excluded from the competitive civil service procedures. This means that they have their own hiring system and establish the evaluation criteria they use in filling their internal vacancies. These agencies are called excepted service agencies. Federal Resume – There actually is no prescribed form, though some vacancy postings will refer to it. In reality, the term simply refers to a resume that contains all the information required to apply for a federal job. (See page 12 – Applying for a Federal Government Job.) Form C (OPM form 1203) – See Occupational Questionnaire. General Schedule (GS) Pay – The general pay scale system for white collar jobs in the federal government. Positions are identified by GS level from GS-1 to GS-15. GS pay is adjusted geographically and the majority of jobs pay more than the base salary for each GS level (listed in the chart below). Certain hard-to-fill jobs, usually in the scientific, technical, and medical fields, may have higher starting salaries. See page 34 for the 2007 GS basic pay schedule. 23
  25. 25. Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) – The necessary characteristics belonging to an applicant qualified for a particular job. Most job postings ask applicants to write a supplemental statement about specific KSAs listed on the announcement. There is no set format for this supplemental information. For suggestions in drafting KSA statements, see Occupational Questionnaire – A form designed to collect applicant information and qualifications. OPM uses this form during open competitive examining for admission to the competitive service (formerly known as Form C, OPM 1203, OPM 1203AW or Qualifications and Availability form). Renamed in 2002, the form is now called Occupational Questionnaire - OPM 1203FX. See The vacancy announcement will specify if you must use this form. OF 510 – An OPM booklet, also known as “Applying for a Federal Job,” that lists all of the information that must be on a federal resume. Optional Application for Federal Employment (OF 612) – The closest thing that actually exists to the federal resume form. This can be used as the resume portion of your application for virtually all federal jobs. See OPM 1203EZ – A three-page version of the Occupational Questionnaire – OPM1203FX. The vacancy announcement will specify if you must use this form. Outstanding Scholar Program – Established by the Luevano Consent Decree (see, the Outstanding Scholar Program is a special hiring authority used as a supplement to the competitive service hiring process for some entry-level positions. The Outstanding Scholar Program can only be used for the specific series and job titles listed at Positions in some occupational fields are not covered by the Outstanding Scholar Program: accounting and auditing; engineering; physical sciences; biological sciences; and mathematics. Applicants must be college graduates and have maintained a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 or better on a 4.0 scale for all undergraduate coursework, or have graduated in the upper 10% of their graduating class or major university subdivision. Public Trust Designation – Positions that require applicants to undergo a background check. Qualifications and Availability Form – See Occupational Questionnaire. Qualifications Standards Operating Manual – The Office of Personnel Management’s guide to qualifications required for a particular job at a particular grade level. This is primarily for the use of the people who are doing the hiring but some job postings may refer applicants to it for more information about qualifications. SF 86 – Questionnaire required for national security positions. The form asks questions 24
  26. 26. regarding education, past and current employers, police records, financial situation, drug and alcohol use, etc., and is used to initiate required background investigations (SF86A is a continuation sheet for Questionnaire SF86 for continuing answers to residence, education and employment questions). Status Candidates – Job applicants currently working for the federal government or certain former federal employees. Superior Academic Achievement – A provision of the Office of Personnel Management’s qualification standards allows students who have completed all the requirements for a bachelor’s degree, but have no specialized experience or graduate-level education, to qualify at the GS-7 level based on superior academic achievement. (Normally, someone with a four-year degree and no additional education or experience can only qualify at the GS-5 level.) It can be achieved three different ways: 1) Class standing – Applicants must be in the upper third of the graduating class in the college, university, or major subdivision 2) Grade-point average (GPA) – Applicants must have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher based on four years of education and recorded on applicants transcript, or 3.5 or higher based on the average required courses completed in the major field during the final two years of the curriculum 3) Honor society membership – membership in one of the national scholastic honor societies Temporary Appointment – A temporary appointment is an appointment lasting one year or less, with a specific expiration date. It is appropriate when an agency expects there will be no permanent need for the employee. A temporary employee does not serve a probationary period and is not eligible for promotion, reassignment, or transfer to other jobs. There are several reasons an agency may make a temporary appointment: Fill a short-term position that is not expected to last more than one year Meet an employment need that is scheduled to be terminated within one or two years for reasons such as reorganization, abolishment, or the completion of a specific project or peak workload Fill positions that involve intermittent (irregular) or seasonal (recurring annually) work schedules Term Position – Under term employment, the employing agency hires the term appointee for work on a project of a non-permanent nature and for a limited period of time, lasting for more than one year but not to exceed four years. A term appointment may be made for several reasons: Project work Extraordinary workload Scheduled abolishment of a position Reorganization Uncertainty of future funding Contracting out of the function 25
  27. 27. Upward Mobility Program – A program agencies can use to groom talent by creating or restructuring positions so they can be filled by promising entry-level applicants who will then be offered structured training and other career-development opportunities. Veterans’ Preference – By law, veterans who are disabled or who served on active duty in the Armed Forces during certain specified time periods or in military campaigns are entitled to preference in hiring over other eligible applicants, and in retention during reductions in force. The preference is meant to provide a uniform method by which special consideration is given to qualified veterans seeking federal employment and applies to permanent and temporary positions in the competitive and excepted services of the executive branch. See Special Hiring Initiatives within the Federal Government, page 31. 26
  28. 28. Additional Agency-Specific Application Forms Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) Comprehensive Database of Forms The OPM, through its USAJobs – – website, provides electronic versions of forms often requested by agencies when applying for certain job vacancies. Department of Homeland Security I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form The Immigration Reform and Control Act made all U.S. employers responsible for verifying the employment eligibility and identity of all employees hired to work in the U.S. after November 6, 1986. To implement the law, employers are required to complete Employment Eligibility Verification forms (Form I-9) for all employees, including U.S. citizens. Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Contract Management Agency’s Automated Staffing Program (ASP) An automated process for filling vacant positions. ASP interfaces with a commercial off-the- shelf package called Resumix that is deployed throughout the Department of Defense (DOD). Human Resources Service Center – Civilian Job Kit Servicing OSD, Defense Agencies, and DOD Field Activities, this job kit contains all the information needed to successfully complete a resume and apply for employment with the DOD. Citizen and Immigration Services – Applicant Survey – G-942 This special form (G-942) is required when applying for jobs at the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS. Department of the Interior – Applicant Background Survey Form – DI-1935 B This form is required when applying for jobs at DOI, including National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, etc. Resumix The Department of the Army, West Civilian Personnel Operations Center (WCPOC) uses Resumix, an automated referral system to fill vacancies. Applicants must submit a three-page resume and a one-page supplemental data sheet to apply for positions. 27
  29. 29. Alternative Points of Entry Student Opportunities in the Federal Government Outstanding Scholar Program A special hiring authority that supplements the competitive service hiring process for some entry-level positions. Students with GPAs of 3.5+ may apply for specific jobs (restricted to grade levels GS-5 and GS-7) in 100+ career fields. Opportunities are advertised on USAJobs. Federal Student Educational Employment Program Open to students at all levels: high school, undergraduate, graduate and vocational/technical students. This program offers students at all levels the opportunity to combine academic study with on-the-job experience. Flexible schedule of work assignments. Note that this program has two components: Student Temporary Employment and Student Career Experience. The Student Temporary Employment component offers all students temporary job opportunities. Employment ranges from summer jobs to positions that may last until a student graduates. These employment opportunities need not necessarily be related to your academic field of study. The Student Career Experience component offers valuable work experience directly related to a student’s academic field of study. Students may be eligible for permanent employment under this component after successfully completing their education and meeting work requirements. Summer Employment Most agencies offer summer job opportunities. Job seekers can find vacancies online at or by phone at 703-724-1850 or TDD 978-461-8404. Deadlines vary by agency. e-Scholar A website for locating educational opportunities available to students (high school to doctorate) and career professionals (teaching faculty to lead scientist). There are many e-Scholar programs from which to choose: Apprenticeships, Cooperatives, Fellowships, Grants, Internships and Scholarships. They are open to students at all levels. Scholarship For Service (SFS) Scholarship for Service (SFS) is a unique program designed to increase and strengthen the cadre of federal information assurance professionals that protect the government's critical information infrastructure. Scholarships fully fund the typical costs that students pay for books, tuition, and room and board while attending an approved institution of higher learning. Participants also 28
  30. 30. receive stipends of up to $8,000 for undergraduates and $12,000 for graduate students. Students agree to work for the federal government for a period equivalent to the length of the scholarship. *** Law Student and Attorney Opportunities DOJ Attorney General’s Honors Program Full-time, entry-level attorney positions and 1-2 year clerkships and fellowships for graduating law students, judicial clerks, and full-time graduate law students with well-rounded backgrounds, illustrating academic achievement and intellectual and analytical thinking. DOJ Summer Law Intern Program (SLIP) Compensated summer positions primarily for second year law students and graduating law students entering judicial clerkships or full-time graduate law programs after graduation. DOJ Legal Intern Program Volunteer, work-study and part-time positions for law students for summer and/or during the academic year. DOJ Experienced Attorneys Opportunities for attorneys who are active members of the bar (any jurisdiction) and have at least one-year post-J.D. experience. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Legal Honors Programs National security law positions for entry-level attorneys that last three-years. Attorneys are usually assigned to two divisions within the Office of the General Counsel. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) The Legal Honors Intern program is the only recruitment method HUD uses for hiring graduating law students. Successful candidates are given a one-year legal internship. Following the completion of the internship, the attorney may be granted an offer of permanent employment. Additional information regarding the program can be found at Department of the Interior The Solicitor's Honors Program is primary manner by which the Department of the Interior hires entry-level lawyers. Similar to HUD’s program, new attorneys are hired for a one-year internship program, after which they may be offered permanent employment based on their performance. To find more information on the program, check out this link: 29
  31. 31. Department of Labor The Department of Labor’s Office of the Solicitor, an employer of 500 attorneys, enforces occupational safety and health laws, various civil rights laws, minimum wage and overtime laws as well as a number of other labor laws. Attorneys hired for the honors program spend two years in the Special Appellate and Supreme Court Litigation Division, and are then assigned to another division in Washington, DC. Information on the program is available at Federal Trade Commission (FTC) E-mail at Seeks entry-level attorneys for open positions on an annual basis. This type of attorney is hired at the GS-11 or GS-12 level. Recent graduates are placed in fourteen-month rotations as law clerks, pending admission to a bar. Presidential Management Fellows Program (formerly known as the Presidential Management Intern (PMI) Program) Open to masters, law and doctoral-level graduate students from a wide variety of academic disciplines interested and dedicated to public policy. Schools nominate applicants with achievements of breadth and quality, capacity for leadership and demonstrated commitment to a career in the analysis and management of public policies programs. Accepted Presidential Management Fellows receive initial two-year excepted service appointments, and are later eligible for various promotions. 30
  32. 32. Special Hiring Initiatives in the Federal Government Diversity and Minority Recruiting The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), an independent agency of the government that manages the civil service of the federal government, is committed to diversity in the federal government. In addition to providing training to managers about practical ways to make a diverse workforce a strength for the entire organization, the OPM also submits annual reports of statistical data to Congress on employment in the federal workforce, including representation of women and minorities under the Federal Equal Opportunity Recruitment Program (FEORP). The FEORP report also highlights practices and initiatives federal agencies are using to recruit and develop a diverse workforce. The most recent report (2006) can be accessed via the FEORP website at Each agency has its own diversity plan to suit its particular hiring needs. For instance, the Department of Labor holds an annual Opportunity Conference that provides job and networking opportunities targeted at the Asian Pacific, Hispanic, and African American communities. The fifth annual conference will take place in the fall of 2007. More information is available at The Asian Pacific American (APA) Federal Career Guide, a joint publication by the OPM and the Department of Labor, provides guidance for Asian Pacific Americans in obtaining employment with the federal government. The APA Guide is available at Information on a particular agency’s diversity hiring program may be obtained by contacting the Equal Employment Opportunity office or its equivalent at that agency. The Federal Bureau of Investigation within the Department of Justice has implemented several initiatives to address diversity and equal employment opportunities within the agency’s workplace. Information regarding these initiatives can be found at Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity (EEOD) is committed to efforts in identifying and recruiting qualified, diverse candidates. During 2003, EEOD partnered with a group of human resource officials to develop a CI Recruitment, Hiring, and Retention strategy. EEOD was also involved in the process, which identified the more than thirty highly qualified college students who were selected to participate in the CI Student Career Experience Program (Special Agent Training Program). More than 75% of the students selected were minorities. Information discussing the Environmental Protection Agency participation in several diversity initiatives, including the National Hispanic Outreach Strategy and Student Environmental Associate Program and Diversity Initiative, can be found at and 31
  33. 33. In addressing racial under-representation in the workforce and implementing a strategy to maintain diversity, the International Trade Administration of the Department of Commerce participated in several initiatives, including but not limited to attending and representing the Department and ITA at the 2006 HACU (Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities); attending the Fall 2006 Career & Internship Fair at Florida International University, a 56% Hispanic student population university; contacting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic institutions to communicate open vacancies using the QuickHire diversity feature; and communicating monthly diversity data to ITA management via the ITA diversity website. ( People with Disabilities The federal government has special appointing authorities for persons with disabilities. To be eligible for these noncompetitive, Schedule A appointments, a person must meet the definition for being disabled. The person must have a severe physical, cognitive, or emotional disability; have a history of having such disability; or be perceived as having such disability. People who are disabled and have a certification letter from a State Vocational Rehabilitation Office or the Department of Veterans Affairs may apply for noncompetitive appointment through the special authorities. Applicants with certification letters may apply directly to agencies’ Selective Placement Coordinators or equivalent to be considered for jobs. Applicants should send an application plus the certification to the Selective Placement Coordinator or equivalent. Disabled veterans may also be considered under special hiring programs for disabled veterans with disability ratings from the Department of Veterans Affairs of 30% or more. OPM administers the Federal Employment of People with Disabilities program (, which provides information for individuals with disabilities who are interested in obtaining or changing Federal employment positions. Details on the process for finding a federal job, obtaining a certification of disability, working with the selective placement coordinators, and interviewing are also provided on the website. Most federal agencies have a Selective Placement Program Coordinator, Special Emphasis Manager (SEP) for Employment of Adults with Disabilities, or equivalent, who helps agency management recruit, hire, and accommodate people with disabilities at that agency. SEP Managers also develop, manage, and evaluate the agency’s Affirmative Employment Program for Individuals with Disabilities. The Selective Placement Program Coordinator directory is available at Veterans The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) administers entitlement to veterans’ preference in employment under Title 5, United States Code, and oversees other statutory employment requirements in Titles 5 and 38. 32
  34. 34. The OPM also publishes the VetGuide, which provides information on the federal government’s hiring procedure for veterans claiming preference in applying for federal employment positions. The VetGuide is available at To receive veterans preference, a veteran must have been discharged or released from active duty in the Armed Forces under honorable conditions (i.e., with an honorable or general discharge). When applying for federal jobs, eligible veterans should claim preference on their application or resume. Veterans who received an honorable or general discharge from active duty in the Armed Forces, and who may claim one of the preference categories listed on Standard Form SF 15 – Application for 10-Point Veteran Preference (, may have 10 points added to their civil service examination scores. Veterans who are not eligible for the 10-point preference may be eligible for a 5-point preference. 33
  35. 35. Federal Government Salary Information Serving as a lawyer or manager in the federal government may not provide as large a salary as a major metropolitan law firm, but it offers a salary that is competitive with many public service opportunities. Moreover, government employment provides a variety of unique challenges and rewards that can make the job worth the sacrifice of a private sector salary. To get an idea of how much federal jobs pay, a good place to start is the Office of Personnel Management’s website ( Most white-collar federal jobs fall under the General Schedule (or GS) pay scale (see below). In this scale, jobs are ranked according to level of responsibility and difficulty and are assigned corresponding grades. Grades start at GS-1 and go up to GS-15, then into the Senior Executive Service (SES). As your grade goes up, your salary rises with it. Within each grade level there are several steps, often as many as 10. Length of tenure in a position and job performance can bump employees up by steps within their grade. For information on salaries, promotions and benefits in the Department of Justice, see College graduates with a four-year degree typically enter the system at GS-5 or GS-7. Master’s level graduates usually enter at a GS-9 or higher, depending upon number of years of work experience. Special rules allow agencies to pay attorneys more, so law school graduates usually start at a GS- 11 or GS-12, depending on whether the applicant is entering an honors program or has experience from a clerkship. This will generally mean a starting salary somewhere between $52,000 and $71,000. Why the wide range? The federal government has base pay tables and locality pay tables. In metropolitan areas such as San Francisco or New York, federal employees earn a higher salary to compensate for the higher cost of living. Areas that do not have a locality pay formula are covered by the rest of the United States formula. For 2007, basic pay under the General Schedule or GS pay plan is as follows: Grade Base Pay GS – 1 $16,630 GS – 2 $18,698 GS – 3 $20,401 GS – 4 $22,902 GS – 5 $25,623 GS – 6 $28,562 GS – 7 $31,740 GS – 8 $35,151 GS – 9 $38,824 GS – 10 $42,755 GS – 11 $46,974 GS – 12 $56,301 GS – 13 $66,951 GS – 14 $79,115 GS – 15 $93,063 To view the 2007 Locality Pay Charts visit 34
  36. 36. Finally, while these pay tables are a good reference, keep in mind that there are always exceptions. For instance, for certain hard-to-fill positions, departments and agencies may be able to offer a “special pay rate” that allows them to increase salaries for potential recruits. Examples of such departments and agencies include the Securities and Exchange Commission, Department of Justice, Internal Revenue Service (Office of Chief Counsel), General Accounting Office, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, the Army and Air Force JAG, Housing and Urban Development, and Health and Human Services. 35
  37. 37. Federal Government Benefits Information Health Insurance Federal employees can enroll in health insurance coverage for themselves and their families at reasonable rates. They enjoy one of the widest selections of plans in the country. About 245 plans participate in the health insurance program. Employees can choose among fee-for-service plans, health maintenance organizations, and point-of-service plans. There is an annual open season during which employees can change their enrollment. Unlike a growing number of private sector health benefits programs, federal employees can continue their health insurance coverage into retirement with a full government contribution. Most enrollees pay about one- fourth of the health benefits premium. See also: Holidays Full-time federal employees are entitled to 10 paid holidays each year. These holidays are listed by year at Annual Leave Accrual of annual leave is based on the number of years served. The rate of accumulation of leave for full-time employees is: 1-3 years 4 hours every two weeks-13 days per year 3-15 years 6 hours every two weeks- 20 days per year Over 15 years 8 hours every two weeks- 26 days per year Life Insurance Most full-time and part-time employees are automatically enrolled in basic life insurance equal to their salary, rounded to the next $1,000, plus $2,000. The government pays one-third of the cost of this group term insurance. Employees do not have to prove insurability—no physical is required. Basic coverage includes double benefits for accidental death and benefits for dismemberment. Employees can also purchase optional insurance at their own expense. Optional coverage includes additional insurance on the employee’s life as well as coverage for the employee’s spouse and eligible children, if any. Accelerated death benefits are available to terminally ill enrollees so that they can receive life insurance proceeds while they are living. Many large organizations are cutting life insurance benefits to retirees. This is untrue in the federal government, which allows life insurance to be continued into retirement. It can also be converted to private coverage upon termination, without proof of insurability. See 36
  38. 38. Loan Repayment Assistance (LRAP) Federal employees can receive up to $10,000 per year in student loan repayments, and up to $60,000 total. In return, they must commit to at least three years of agency service. The federal loan repayment program is still relatively new, but several agencies have started to use it as a recruitment and retention incentive. See more information on LRAP in the next two sections….. 37
  39. 39. Loan Repayment Update: Extra Assistance for Public Lawyers By Sarah Hilton Sarah Hilton is the ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division’s project coordinator. NOTE: this article was originally published in summer, 2007. Subsequent legislative action may change the details overviewed in the article. LOAN REPAYMENT UPDATE: EXTRA ASSISTANCE FOR PUBLIC LAWYERS Law school debt keeps many graduates from pursuing public service careers. Over 80 percent of law students1 borrow to finance their education. For 2006 graduates, the average accumulated debt load was $54,509 for public law schools and $83,151 for private.2 Two-thirds of undergraduates carry almost $20,000 in debt on average, and many law students graduate with six-figure financial obligations.3 With starting salaries ranging from $36,000 for civil legal services organizations to $44,000 for state and local prosecuting attorneys, young lawyers with educational debt who enter public service face an incredible repayment challenge.4 Present and future public lawyers, the ABA and many in the legal community enthusiastically support recent efforts by Congress and some federal agencies to ease the loan repayment burden for lawyers in public service. Amending the Income Contingent Repayment Option for Public Servants In June, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) introduced the Higher Education Amendments of 2007 or Senate Bill 1642. On July 24, the bill passed in the Senate with a vote of 95-0; a House vote is pending. The act would amend the Income Contingent Repayment Option (ICR Option), 5 a U.S. Department of Education plan designed to make repaying education loans easier for graduates entering lower-income fields, such as public service. Right now, the ICR Option allows graduates to repay their qualifying loans as an affordable percentage of their income over 25 years, after which any remaining balance is repaid by the government. Many who are eligible to take advantage of this option decline to do so because of the lengthy repayment period. The ABA has repeatedly proposed amending the ICR Option to shorten the term of repayment and supports Sen. Kennedy’s bill. This bill recommends reducing the repayment period to 10 years for those who work for that entire time in public service. After 10 years in public interest legal services, including prosecution and defense, and 10 years of monthly income contingent payments, the federal government would forgive the remaining educational loan balance. In the House, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) also introduced bills in June to amend the ICR Option to provide loan forgiveness after 10 years of monthly repayments made during 10 years of full-time government or non-profit employment.6 Rep. Miller’s bill, H.R. 2669, passed in both the House and Senate in July and proceeded to conference. Providing for Loan Repayment for Prosecutors and Public Defenders This winter, Representative David Scott (DGA) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced versions of the John R. Justice Prosecutors and Defenders Incentive Act of 2007 in the House 38
  40. 40. and Senate.7 The identical bills would amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to include a student loan repayment program for prosecutors and public defenders. Bipartisan support exists for both bills. On May 15, 2007, the House passed its version of the bill. In July, Sen. Durbin offered Amendment No. 2377 to include the John R. Justice Prosecutors and Defenders Incentive Act as an amendment to S. 1642. The amendment was agreed to by unanimous consent. Sen. Durbin’s amendment would establish a loan repayment assistance program for law school graduates who agree to spend three years employed as state or local criminal prosecutors, or as state, local or federal public defenders. If eligible, these public lawyers would receive up to $10,000 per year in repayment assistance, along with an option to renew their three year commitment, with a maximum payout of $60,000. The program was modeled after the current loan repayment assistance program for federal prosecutors. Pushing for Loan Repayment Assistance for Legal Aid Lawyers In April of 2007, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced legislation to encourage more lawyers to choose careers in legal aid. The Civil Legal Assistance Attorney Repayment Act, S.1167, would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 and establish a loan repayment assistance program for new law graduates who work for legal aid. Eligible legal aid lawyers who agree to a three year term of service would receive $6,000 per year in education loan repayment assistance, and could renew their commitment for a second three year term up to a $40,000 maximum. Assistance would be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, although civil legal aid lawyers already receiving the benefit or serving a three year term of service, and lawyers who have practiced law for five years or less and have spent at least 90 percent of that time as a civil legal assistance attorney would be given priority. In July, Senators Harkin and Ben Cardin (D-MD) offered Amendment No. 2380 to amend Sen. Durbin’s amendment (No. 2377) to S. 1642 to establish a student loan repayment program for civil legal assistance attorneys. The Harkin/Cardin Amendment was agreed to by unanimous consent. More Loan Repayment Assistance at More Federal Agencies According to a report issued by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management,8 34 federal agencies provided 5,755 employees with nearly $36 million in student loan repayment benefits during FY 2006. This represents a 31 percent increase in the number of federal employees receiving student loan repayment benefits and a 28 percent increase in the agencies’ total financial investment in this recruitment and retention tool, when compared to FY 2005. Section 5379 of Title 5 of the U.S. Code authorizes agencies to establish student loan repayment programs. Agencies may make loan payments of up to $10,000 for an employee in a calendar year up to the maximum of $60,000. In return, the employee must sign a service agreement to remain in the service of that agency for at least three years. The number of agencies offering employees loan repayment assistance programs has more than doubled since FY 2002, and nine times as many employees received this benefit in FY 2006 as in FY 2002. In FY 2006, more than half of the federal agencies either made student loan repayments or established a student loan repayment program. 39

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